Pneumonia is a kind of lung infection that affects the lungs in the larger airways – bronchitis or smaller air sacs – pneumonia. When there is a build-up of pus and fluid (mucous), this causes inflammation in response to a bacterial or viral infection. As a result, the airways become swollen, making breathing difficult. Pneumonia can infect a particular lung area or infect several areas known as “double” or “multilobar” pneumonia. Several factors cause pneumonia, in most cases, they are infectious. The main causes include:
- Mycoplasma (a kind of bacteria).
Lung infections can affect people of all ages, including young children, the elderly, smokers, and people already ill are most at risk of developing a chest infection.
What causes pneumonia?
Pneumonia is caused by a virus or bacteria when the person is exposed to in the environment or is passed on from another person. Infection can spread between people from direct contact, usually by touching, for example- shaking hands or inhaling droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing.
Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 and most influenza viruses can lead to severe pneumonia. Parasite or fungus rarely cause pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia is caused by foreign material, usually food particles getting into the lungs from the throat, which irritates the airways and lung tissue and creates chances of a bacterial infection.
What are the symptoms of pneumonia?
People with pneumonia often have a cough, fever or chills, breathing trouble, low energy levels and poor appetite. Sometimes a person will have symptoms like nausea, diarrhoea, and/or chest pain.
A person can also have pneumonia without showing symptoms of a cough or fever. Symptoms may be seen quickly or may worsen slowly over some time.
Pneumonia can attack out of the blue or affect slowly over a period. It is more common to catch pneumonia in the winter season.
Pneumonia symptoms vary depending on the age, the cause and severity of the infection, and any other medical conditions the person may have.
Common symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Fast or difficult breathing
- Phlegm that is mildly brownish or greenish
- Fever (sweating, shivering, chills)
- Feeling unwell and more tired (lethargy)
- Blue colour around the lips (cyanosis). The person may also show symptoms such as stomach or chest pain, headaches, general aches and pains and loss of appetite. Common symptoms in children are vomiting, diarrhoea and irritability or low energy.
Who gets pneumonia?
Pneumonia can happen irrespective of age. However, its occurrence is more common in elderly people and young children. Some people are more at risk of pneumonia because they may have pre-existing lung disease, poor nutrition, swallowing difficulties, and other chronic health conditions or immune system problems.
Tobacco smokers and people who are around tobacco smoke are at higher risk of developing pneumonia. People who have not taken the yearly influenza vaccine or have not been immunized are at risk of catching pneumonia.
What is the recommended treatment for pneumonia?
Treatment of pneumonia depends on its cause and the severity of the infection in the person. The most common tests for lung infection may include a chest x-ray, a sample of the phlegm and regular blood tests.
Usually, antibiotics are given to fight against the bacteria causing the infection, and they help in recovery. In cases of pain and fever, painkillers, such as paracetamol may be helpful.
If the immune system is poor, the person may receive medications to treat fungal infections. If the person suffers from breathing normally, oxygen is given to support low oxygen levels.
Isolating oneself is important in the process of treatment to curb the spread of the disease. Different infections will need different types of isolation that can spread easily between people.
A doctor will be able to advise on the treatments of pneumonia. We advise seeing a doctor within 48 hours, especially if symptoms are severe and conditions are not improving.
What can I do to get better faster?
- It’s important to take all your medications, especially the antibiotics, to help recover quickly from pneumonia, even if you feel better after you start taking them.
- It is not advisable to skip doses because you may not recover and make it easier for the bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotic you take.
- Strictly avoid saving antibiotics given for pneumonia to use if you get another infection.
- Quit smoking and vaping! Avoid sticking around smokers too.
- Take enough rest, but do not be idle or lying in bed all the time. It is good to get up and move around for an active lifestyle.
- Drink plenty of fluids
When to seek medical help:
- Your cough is severe or getting worse.
- Your fever is not going away.
- You have trouble breathing.
- You worry about possible side effects or find it difficult to take your medications. Consult your healthcare provider before stopping your medicine.
- Your health condition does not improve, or you still have a fever 3 days after starting antibiotics.
At least once a year, get yourself an influenza virus vaccine and updated Streptococcus pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine. Following simple precautionary steps like wearing masks, physical distancing and avoiding large crowds can reduce your risk and others from catching pneumonia, COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Frequently wash hands, especially when meeting a person with a cold or lung infection or getting in contact with a group of people. Exercise and eat well to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
How long does pneumonia take to heal completely?
Often people suffering from pneumonia can be given treatment even though complications happen. It takes around four weeks for the chest pain and mucus production to reduce substantially.
Another six weeks of treatment can reduce symptoms like cough and breathlessness. Most symptoms would be contained during this interval, and a person can feel normal.
What are the do’s and don’ts when you have pneumonia?
If a person has pneumonia, it is essential to drink warm beverages, take a steam bath or use a humidifier to help open the airways and ease the breathing. It is also crucial to contact a doctor immediately when the symptoms of pneumonia get worse.
A person’s primary consideration is not to infect others with pneumonia. It is important to rest. Smoking can cause pneumonia, so it is essential to quit smoking to prevent the health condition from getting more serious.
Should I stay at home if I have pneumonia?
It is vital to isolate oneself if they have pneumonia until a doctor examines and confirms that the disease is no longer contagious.
What test will doctors do to confirm pneumonia?
An x-ray is performed to diagnose pneumonia. A blood test can provide results and check for infections in the body. Pulse oximetry measures how much oxygen is in the bloodstream.
What is the recovery period of pneumonia?
Usually, it may take three weeks for a person to manage their symptoms of pneumonia and recover.
Some people feel better and can return to normal health conditions within a couple of weeks, but it can also take a few months or more for other people.
Is pneumonia contagious?
Pneumonia is the inflammation of tissues in one or both lungs that are caused by an infection from a bacteria or virus and can be contagious.
Is double pneumonia more dangerous than single pneumonia?
When pneumonia affects both lungs, it is significantly more dangerous than a health condition affecting only one lung.
Double pneumonia is a severe health condition that can be fatal if not treated properly.
Can pneumonia lead to other illnesses?
Pneumonia can cause possible complications that can spread the infection to other organs and cause organ failure. Pneumonia is a severe health condition that can lead to respiratory failure or lung abscess.
What can you do to prevent pneumonia?
Vaccination is one of the first steps to preventing severe pneumonia consequences. Taking care of overall health, including a lot of fruits and vegetables and having a healthy lifestyle can prevent the chances of developing pneumonia.
It is important to quit smoking to reduce the chances of developing a fatal health condition